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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

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  1. ICE Reports Deportations Down in FY 2013

    by , 12-19-2013 at 09:53 PM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    From Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

    In FY2013, ICE conducted a total of 368,644 removals, 235,093 of whom were apprehended while, or shortly after, attempting to illegally enter the United States, and 133,551 of whom were apprehended in the interior of the United States. Nearly 60 percent of ICE’s total removals had been previously convicted of a criminal offense, and that number rises to 82 percent for individuals removed from the interior of the U.S. Other than convicted criminals, the agency’s enforcement priorities include: those apprehended while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States, illegal re-entrants – individuals who returned to the U.S. after being previously removed by ICE – and immigration fugitives.


    ICE had a rosy take on the numbers:

    The FY2013 numbers make clear that we are enforcing our nation’s laws in a smart and effective way, meeting our enforcement priorities by focusing on convicted criminals while also continuing to secure our nation’s borders in partnership with CBP,” said Acting Director Sandweg. “Ninety eight percent of those removed in the last year met one of our key priorities – a record high and a testament to the men and women of ICE who are helping to implement a strong and focused immigration enforcement strategy.

    Other organizations weren't buying it. Frank Sharry for America's Voice had strong words in reaction to the new figures:

    It’s sickening that the Obama Administration is deporting more immigrants than any other Administration in history, especially when the vast majority of those being deported qualify for legal status and a chance to earn citizenship under legislation the Obama Administration supports. What the President and new DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson should do is stop deporting people who are eligible for immigration status under pending legislation and tell ICE to stop ripping hard working immigrants away from their families and jobs. At a time of year when families should be celebrating together, it’s heartbreaking that our government is setting records for separating families.

    There is a huge gap between what they say and what they do. DHS announced prosecutorial discretion policies in 2011 aimed at focusing deportation on the ‘worst of the worst,’ and yet these policies have never been fully implemented. They claim that most of those being deported are ‘convicted criminals’ – a scary label until you realize that their own definitions of ‘convicted criminals’ include traffic violations and minor nuisance offenses (see here and here). They claim that the only answer is legislation – which really is the best and most permanent solution – but refuse to simultaneously use their substantial administrative authority to rein in the out-of-control detention and deportation machinery. The time is now for the Administration to do its part to stop deporting people who are anything but ‘criminals’ and have deep roots and make huge contributions to the country they now call home.

    And Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum had this take:

    It’s clear that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is working to focus its resources on deporting criminals. We are encouraged that a higher proportion of deportees had criminal convictions.

    But ICE is still removing people with no criminal record who are just trying to build a life in America — including tens of thousands this past year. These numbers highlight the urgency for broad immigration reform from Congress that stresses accountability and moves our country forward. In 2014, leaders simply must follow through on a new immigration process that emphasizes security, freedom, opportunity and human dignity.

    And Ruthie Epstein of the ACLU reminds us that a dubious milestone is about to be hit:

    Despite broad consensus that the nation needs immigration reform, the Obama administration is barreling towards the dubious honor of hitting a record 2 million deportations by early next year. Today’s numbers show that ICE continues to sweep tens of thousands of immigrants into a detention and deportation machine that lacks basic due process protections, including the dignity of an appearance before a judge. The Department of Homeland Security should sharpen its enforcement priorities and strengthen due process protections for immigrants in removal proceedings.

    Updated 12-19-2013 at 09:56 PM by GSiskind

  2. Johnson Confirmed by Senate; Mayorkas up Next

    by , 12-17-2013 at 02:45 PM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    Jeh Johnson was confirmed by the Senate 78-16 to be the new head of the Department of Homeland Security. This is the latest in a string of Senate confirmations of presidential appointees since Senate Democrats voted to change the rules and make it more difficult to filibuster. The Senate is expected to consider tomorrow the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas, the current head of USCIS, to be a deputy DHS Secretary.
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  3. Goodlatte Predicts Immigration Legislation Will Pass in 2014

    by , 12-12-2013 at 09:48 PM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    I've blogged before that while I was pretty disappointed that Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) was made chairman of the Judiciary Committee (he had the highest anti-immigration rating in Congress), he's been surprisingly reasonable and seems genuinely interested in moving forward some decent proposals that will get at many of the major issues.

    Some in the media - particularly those who don't cover immigration closely - have pronounced immigration reform dead multiple times. And while I regularly push for action sooner, I also am not interpreting a lack of action now to mean that reform is dead. I suspect that we're going to see more committee action in the first part of 2014 and the more difficult full house votes to take place after we get closer to the end of the Republican primary season.

    Bob Goodlatte talked to reporters yesterday and had some interesting things to say. According to National Journal:

    The House speaker's statement [that the House would not conference on S.744] gives the committee free rein to put together an immigration package on its own schedule and terms without the pressure of matching the Senate bill, something of a rarity at a time when many major issues are grabbed up by the chamber's top leaders.

    "That gives us more latitude to have the discussions that need to take place," said committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. "We've been hard at work on that throughout the year. We produced several bills. We're working on several more."

    Yet it also leaves Goodlatte, a former immigration attorney, picking his way through a tangled issue with little in the way of a map. Throughout 2013, he has stubbornly stuck to his plan to consider smaller immigration issues separately and deliberately, even as lobbyists and activists were buzzing about the Senate's massive bill and the House's bipartisan "gang" of members who were working on separate legislation.

    It was an approach that drew criticism, with many saying immigration reform would be buried in the House, never to emerge. Not so, says Goodlatte. "You shouldn't just use the past tense here, because this is an issue that's going to go on for a while," he said.
  4. Policewoman Resigns After Learning She's Unlawfully Present

    by , 12-12-2013 at 09:28 PM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    An Arizona police detective resigned after learning that her family was not telling her the truth when they said she was born in the US. The truth was that she was born in Mexico and brought to the country as an infant. The 42 year old Carmen Figueroa only learned of her true status earlier this year.

    If you think this is incredible, I've actually had several people come to me over the years with similar stories. One of the most memorable was a young man who came to the US with his parent on a tourist visa at two years old. He learned his status when he graduated dental school and needed to get a birth certificate to apply for a license. His parents confessed to him at that point and were it not for the fact that he had already married an American, he might have faced deportation. That case was the basis for a television script for an episode on a popular legal drama written by a friend.

    These cases should remind people that not only are many DREAMers lacking in culpability for their status, some have gone much of their lives not ever realizing they lack status. It's truly cruel to suggest that these folks be deported. In the case of Ms. Figueroa, she is NOT eligible for DACA or the DREAM Act because she is too old. That's a problem with the law. If someone came as an infant to the US and has lived in the US for nearly 40 years, why would we sent her home.
  5. 1500 Pro-Immigration Activists Hold Vigils in 200 House Republicans' Offices

    by , 12-12-2013 at 08:49 PM (Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy)
    Seven years ago, I bemoaned the fact that we were being whipped by anti-immigrant groups in advocacy on immigration reform. In 2013, it's exactly the opposite. Anti-immigrant groups are seemingly absent from the debate (with the exception of cranky comment writers on news service web sites). Pro-immigration advocacy groups - and there are so many that are active this year that I won't bother naming them - have simply amazed me with the work they're doing. Whether it's social media campaigns, visits with congressional offices, relentlessly engaging with journalists to keep immigration reform in the news or more dramatic civil protest actions like hunger strikes or sit ins in congressional offices, no one can say that the pro-immigration side hasn't been working like crazy to get an immigration bill passed.

    In fact, the pro-immigration advocacy is now a movement the likes of which the US has seen rarely in recent years. Perhaps the anti-war protests during the Bush years, the environmental movement in the early 90s and - yes - the Tea Party movement that started in 2009 are the closest examples in the last quarter century.

    Today's latest action involved 1,500 activists who staged vigils in 200 congressional offices in the House office buildings in Washington. I followed the activity on Twitter and live streams that America's Voice had on its web site. While some pro-immigration folks will criticize the protesters for being too "in your face." The gadfly approach is one that might not make everyone comfortable, but has the desired effect of reminding members of Congress that they are being watched closely and making the immigration issue go away by simply ignoring it is not an option.

    I also learned in 2006 and 2007 that the groups that make the most noise - whether they have large numbers of people on their side or not - make a big difference. Anti-immigrant groups were able to flood the Capitol with faxes and phone calls while pro-immigration groups found themselves outnumbered sometimes by a 100-1. And all the evidence pointed to their being just a small percentage of the electorate that strongly agreed with the anti-immigrants.

    Pro-immigration groups have always had large numbers of people on their side. There are millions of Americans who have close relatives or friends with immigration problems and public opinion has been pretty positive to the idea of comprehensive immigration reform. If the pro-immigration groups, which have the advantage of having millions more people on their side, could just get organized, then maybe they could even things up.

    Well, boy have they made up for the deficiencies of 2006-2007. This evening Rachel Maddow said that the immigrant activists should have been selected as Person of the Year as opposed to Pope Francis. Maybe that is a bit much, but it's pretty clear that they're shaking up Washington and 2014 is going to be a VERY interesting year for immigration in large part thanks to them.
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